Travel brands urged to embrace tech to build loyalty

Thomson frontTravel brands must work harder to win consumer trust and build brand loyalty, but could gain a significant competitive advantage by embracing the latest technology – including augmented and virtual realityaccording to a new report.
The latest Customer Engagement: Travel report released today by the DMA, shows that within the travel sector hotel and accommodation brands are most trusted (65%) followed by airlines (55%) and online travel booking/price comparison sites (54%). However, this compares to 73% of consumers saying they trust supermarkets to do business fairly.
This was further highlighted, with 37% saying it is important they feel airlines are “not lying to them”, but only half that proportion (18%) say airlines actually deliver on this.
When asked to name their favourite travel brand, Thomson (pictured) was most mentioned, followed by Booking.com and Thomas Cook. However, consumers also mentioned over 70 different brands, highlighting the wide range of brands engaging UK consumers.
According to the research, conducted by the DMA and Foresight Factory, with partners Emarsys, Epsilon, Feefo and Wiraya, what consumers want more from travel brands is value for money (59%), convenience (58%) and good customer service (58%).
The top reasons consumers remained loyal to brands in the sector repeat similar themes of good service experience (53%) and good deals (40%), with the addition of a good loyalty or a rewards scheme (40%) to the top three.
Scott Logie, chair of the DMA Customer Engagement Committee and MD at REaD Group Insight, said: “It’s particularly interesting to see the range of options favoured by customers. When people were asked to name their favourite companies to use for travel, the sheer volume of travel brands mentioned was somewhat surprising. From household names to local travel agents, as well as the new online intermediaries. As individuals we want choice, but we also want to ensure our holidays are hassle free, so we go with companies we trust – even if that is the small local travel agent.”
Emarsys UK managing director Steve Ledgerwood said: “Travel really is a hard sector to gain loyalty in, especially with so many brands in the space – each with a unique voice as to why the consumer should choose them. So stand out, be different, show your customer you understand them and cleverly upsell while helping them benefit from a targeted end-to-end experience.”
Over half of consumers (52%) are willing to use a chatbot to help with pre-travel or booking questions, such as asking an airline for flight details. Once in the airport, 51% of consumers would also be open to sharing their data in order to receive mobile alerts about boarding directions and timings when in an airport.
Augmented and virtual reality presents a new potential channel for travel brands to engage customers too, with more than half (53%) interested in using a virtual reality headset to see a hotel room they are considering staying in. In addition, 44% would like to use augmented reality to get information about the sites or attractions they visit.
Sam Madden, commercial director at Wiraya, said: “If you take anything from this report it should be the clear opportunity brands now have to take significant market share if they realise the issues at hand, and understand the need to focus on service and engagement rather than price. For these businesses it’s time to take advantage of the latest technology to stay one step ahead of the competition.”
To read more about the DMA’s Customer Engagement research into the Travel sector, including the full report, visit: https://dma.org.uk/customer-engagement

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